As of August 1, minors in Inyo County will not be allowed out on the street during school hours without a valid reason. This new truancy law was recently passed by the Inyo Supervisors to compliment a similar law that affects the city of Bishop.
As Inyo tightens up the truancy laws to apply everywhere in the county, the debate continues in Mono County.
The Mammoth Town Council passed an ordinance that went into effect in February, but the Mono Board of Supervisors has continued to debate the issue. Dr. Frank Romero, the Superintendant of the Mammoth Unified School District, says that the school board recently passed a resolution in support of a county-wide truancy ordinance.
Dr. Romero explained that a truancy ordinance would be another tool to keep chronic truants in school. He says that the Mono Supervisors have asked for more data on how a truancy law would help the schools, but Romero adds that if it worked properly, there would not be any data, as all students would be in school.
At last word, the Mono Sheriff Rick Scholl was no longer pushing for a county-wide law, but Sheriff officials say that District Attorney George Boothe may pick up the push for a countywide ordinance.
In Inyo County, Dr. Terry McAteer, the Superintendent of County Schools, explained that the law essentially allows law enforcement to be truant officers, a position that the schools no longer can afford. McAteer says truancy is the number one indicator that a child is in danger of dropping out, using drugs, or engaging in criminal behavior.
The way it would work, according to Dr. McAteer, is that an officer would see a kid wandering around during school hours, pick that kid up, and take him back to school, where, if the facts warranted, the officer would write up a $25 ticket to the student.
The student cant just pay the fine. Dr. McAteer says that the new law requires the parents and the student to appear in court to pay the fine. A lot of the time, parents dont know their children arent going to school, he says. A trip to see Judge Dean Stout is designed to change that.
To eliminate the possibility of a legal safe haven for truant students, Dr. McAteer says that he is working with the Bishop Tribal Council to pass an ordinance on Bishop Paiute lands, with the other tribes following afterwards.